Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Bad Contracts Forced Trade

This will be disorganized and rambling but I guess I should analyze the Curtis Granderson/Edwin Jackson blockbuster a little before I go to bed. Billfer does a great job describing the players they received on Detroit Tigers Weblog. Kurt profiles them on Mack Avenue Tigers. I've heard from some who follow prospects more closely than I do - at least the scouting aspect of it. They assure me that the Tigers received four talented players with good upside. This trade could work out well for the Tigers in the long run but I'm skeptical.

Max Scherzer is the best player the Tigers received in the deal. I think he has a chance to do better than Edwin Jackson if he can avoid injury. The best part about Scherzer is that he misses bats - 240 k in 226 1/3 innings the last two years. He also has a 3.86 ERA in that time. Even with the durability concern, I like that part of the deal.

Phil Coke is a 27 year old lefty reliever who started in the minors but has not started in the Majors. Daniel Schlereth is a hard throwing 24 year old southpaw with control issues. He's also a reliever. Both are decent arms who can contribute in 2010 but long term the Tigers already have a bunch of strong relievers coming through the system. And young relievers are so unpredictable anyway, I'd rather not have them be part of a prospect package in a deal of this magnitude.

The key to the deal may be center fielder Austin Jackson who some scouts regard as a five tool player. Unfortunately, the stats have not been impressive as of yet. He had just four homers and a 123/40 K/BB ratio in AAA in 2009. He'll be just 23 next year and scouts insist he'll develop some power but he's still a big question mark.

Many fans were down on Curtis Granderson after a bad second half last year. However, he's 29 years old, showed good power and had no slip in K/BB ratio last year and should bounce back. He also runs well and plays solid defense at an important position. Fans worry about his strikeouts and his problems versus lefties. The same issues existed in 2007 when the same fans compared him to Grady Sizemore. Overall, he's solid and it's far from a guarantee that Jackson will ever be as good as him. I don't think they got enough back for Grandy.

Again, they acquired some players with some good tools. Dave Dombrowski loves to gamble on pitchers who throw hard and toolsy position players. Sometimes it works but this is the type of gamble that good organizations with high payrolls don't usually have to make.

The Tigers insist that this was strictly a baseball decision but I don't think it was. They put themselves in a corner with a lot of bad contracts (some of it was bad luck). They were too generous to players like Dontrelle Willis and Carlos Guillen and perhaps extended Nate Robertson too early (although I didn't think so at the time). They ended up with a bloated payroll and have been forced to cut salaries.

They have been unable to sign any free agents but Adam Everett to a a 1.55 million deal. They now have been forced to trade Granderson and Jackson for the best package of inexpensive players possible. It's probably not a bad trade given the circumstances but it's a trade I'm pretty sure they would not have made it if they had managed their finances better.

It's a gutsy move trading the popular Granderson for mostly unproven commodities but I think there was pressure to do something. For Dombrowski's sake it better work. I think if they don't make the playoffs by 2011, his job may be in jeopardy.

Jon Morosi explains it better than me.

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